What’s your Myers-Briggs type? Most of us have taken the classic Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) at least once in our lives. In fact, the assessment has been taken nearly 100 million times worldwide!
The MBTI is a fun way to better understand ourselves and our personalities. But can it be used to predict a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction?
Below, we’ll explore which Myers-Briggs personality types may be more prone to addiction, and how accurate this personality assessment is at predicting a person’s likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.
What is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test?
In the early 20th century, psychologist Carl Jung developed a theory of personality types to describe how different individuals function in the world. In the 1940s, Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers expanded these ideas into a widely used personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
The MBTI assessment sorts people according to four major personality traits:
- Extroversion vs. Introversion (E vs I): Someone who is extroverted draws energy from spending time with others, while introverts recharge by spending time alone.
- Sensation vs. Intuition (S vs N): Someone who relies on sensation to process information is more focused on the present, and tends to be more “hands-on.” Those who rely on their intuition look at the big picture, and prefer more abstract knowledge.
- Thinking vs. Feeling (T vs F): A thinker strives to make objective decisions based on facts. A feeler’s decision making is ruled by their heart over their head.
- Judging vs. Perceiving (J vs P): People who score high on judging prefer neatness, order, and the status quo. Those who score high on perceiving enjoy flexibility, spontaneity and “playing things by ear.”
These combine to make 16 unique Myers-Briggs personality types, named after a combination of the four letters. For example, someone could be an ESFP, meaning they are Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving. Or, someone could be an INTJ, meaning they are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging.
Myers Briggs Personality Types & Addiction
There is still much debate about whether something like an “addictive personality” exists. Some studies show higher rates of alcoholism with personality traits such as impulsivity, novelty seeking, and neurosis. However, experts also warn about taking this too strongly to heart. Many other factors, including environment, genetics, and mental health, may be much more significant.
However, with what we know from the research that exists, and our understanding of the different MBTI personalities, we can venture a few educated guesses. Below are several Myers-Briggs personality types that may want to exercise extra caution around drugs and alcohol.
Keep in mind: All of this is speculative. Anyone can become addicted to substances, and nobody is fated to become an alcoholic.
Easygoing, creative, spontaneous, and modest, ISFPs may be more likely than others to self-medicate with substances. One study compared personality traits among people struggling with addiction. The researchers found ISFP to be one of the most common MBTI types among those who also struggled with a mood disorder. Not only that, but each of these traits individually—introversion, sensing, feeling, and perceiving—were more common in this group.
Why would this be? We can only speculate. But according to Truity, ISFPs have the highest rates of financial and child-rearing stress, They also tend to be sensitive, easily bored, and less likely to plan for the future. Each of these factors might put ISFPs at higher risk for substance abuse.
Traditional, generous, upright, and responsible, ESFJs are sometimes counted among those least likely to abuse substances. Yet in one study, this personality type was overrepresented among people who struggled with addiction, but didn’t have any related mental health issues.
Why might cause this contradiction? In some sense, ESFJs may be the opposite of ISFPs—unlikely to use substances to cope, but somewhat likely to become hooked out of sheer habit. ESFJs are both social, and resistant to change. If they start a ritual of overdrinking with friends, they may stick with it long enough to change their brain chemistry, become dependent, then struggle to change their routines.
Logical, imaginative “thinker” types, INTPs’ natural curiosity may sometimes get them in trouble. According to Truity, INTP is the most common MBTI type among college students committing alcohol and drug policy violations. This personality type also tends to be somewhat solitary, have less access to coping resources, and experience lower career satisfaction.
Overall, INTPs may not be the highest risk group for addiction. But they should beware of the grey area between intellectual ennui, isolation, and substance abuse.
Can the Myers-Briggs Test Actually Predict Addiction?
There is some limited evidence around personality types and substance abuse. Sensing in particular seems to be a more common trait among those struggling with addiction. Extroversion also appears linked to binge drinking. There is no strong evidence, however, that introverts and extroverts actually consume different amounts of alcohol overall.
In other words, personality probably has much more to do with how and why you consume substances, than how much. Any MBTI personality type who drinks too much alcohol, for example, can become addicted. So the above should be taken with a grain of salt.
What might be more relevant is how addiction plays out differently from person to person. For a long time, one or two approaches to treatment have been applied to a wide variety of personality types, with the predictable low success rates.
This is where Ria Health is striving to change things. Our program provides customized, flexible support for alcohol addiction from an app on your smartphone. Whether you’re an INFP, ESTJ, or anything in between, our medical and coaching teams will work with you to craft a treatment plan that fits your unique needs.